Activists call for release of vulnerable prisoners in NYC

Advocates and families of the incarcerated gathered outside of the Queens Borough Correctional Facility to mourn the death of 61-year-old Leonard Carter, who died on April 14 of COVID-19.

Carter was six weeks away from being released, and now advocates are calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to release inmates who are elderly, have a compromised immune system or are within a year of their release date. 

According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Support, as of April 23, 263 inmates were reportedly infected with COVID-19, seven had died and 95 had recovered; 894 staff members have been infected, and two died; and 35 parolees were infected and four died. 

Both New York City and the state say that they are taking aggressive steps to prevent an outbreak in prisons.

“We actually have not seen the kind of outbreaks that we feared that we would see,” said Melissa Derosa, Secretary to Governor Cuomo. “We’ve done a number of things including stopping visitation and doing isolation.”

To date, 790 inmates have had their parole violations canceled and have been released, including 300 in New York City. According to Mayor Bill de Blasio, the city’s jail population fell below 4,000 last week, the lowest since 1946.

“We look at every case individually,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. “The first thing you want to look at is the health condition, next is the underlying crime.”

The New York City Department of Corrections confirmed that 373 detainees and 918 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Three inmates and nine DoC personnel have died so far. 


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